Grand River Hospital reports higher levels of caregiver handwashing

Grand River Hospital is reporting higher levels of caregiver handwashing in 2012, compared to four years earlier.

Numbers suggest more caregivers wash their hands before and after patient contact

Grand River Hospital reports more caregivers are washing their hands before having contact with patients. (Brian St. Denis/CBC)

New numbers released by Grand River Hospital suggest high hand-washing compliance rates among its medical staff, which the hospital says results in lower rates of hospital-contracted infectious disease.

"Generally we have noted that for some of the things we are seeing improvement, so most notably, MRSA [methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus] and C.difficile," Dr, William Ciccotelli, medical director of infection prevention and control at Grand River Hospital told CBC News.

While Dr. Ciccotelli says improved handwashing has lowered rates of hospital-contracted infectious disease, he also admits the hand hygeine numbers are only an estimate.

"This is an attempt to approximate what we think is going on and it's impossible at this current moment in time to measure everybody's hand hygeine behaviour pattern," Ciccotelli said.

"This is an attempt to do no different than a survey or a poll."

According to the hospital, the numbers suggest medical caregivers who wash their hands before contact with a patient has increased significantly in the last four years.  

In 2008, only 33 per cent of caregivers washed their hands before contact with their patients or the environment at the hospital's Freeport site, with 29 per cent of caregivers doing so at the hospital's Kitchener site.

The number of caregivers who washed their hands after patient contact was around 50 per cent at the Freeport site and 54 per cent at the Kitchener site in 2008.

Four years later those numbers have risen dramatically, with 2012 data showing 92 per cent of medical staff washed their hands before patient contact at the Freeport site and 91 per cent at the Kitchener site.

Hygiene practices after patient care showed similar improvements in 2012, with 97 per cent at the hospital's Freeport site washing their hands after touching a patient or the environment and 96 per cent at the Kitchener site.

Dr. William Ciccotelli said the improvement in hand hygeine comes down to convenience and ease of use for a very busy medical staff.

"Back in 2008, the numbers were what they are, but I think we can show that with some very minimal improvements to the convenience of hand hygiene and a person to help educate and answer questions and troubleshoot the problem, we've been able to engender a much better behaviour amongst our staff to do it on a very consistent basis," he said.

"I don't think anyone was intentionally not washing their hands because they didn't know it was right. I think sometimes it's a matter of making a new habit form and providing the equipment to make it happen." 

A news release from the hospital says measures to improve handwashing include installing more alcohol-rub dispensers, increasing education, new tools and practices for key patient populations and setting improvement targets for the hospital to meet.